A story shared last week by a Donegal St. housing complex resident shows what’s possible through community mediation.
The resident, Fran Barry, shared the story as part of a gathering intended to lay groundwork for a new community mediation program within the Donegal St. housing complex.
Those who participated were asked by co-host Peter Pula what had brought them to join the gathering.
That’s when Fran told her story.
Her brother was dying and the word came that she needed to fly home immediately to be with him. She had a matter of hours to get ready and drive to the airport for a 7 a.m. flight. As she stepped outside in the early hours of the morning, she saw the back tires on her car had been slit. There was nothing to do but call a taxi and try to still make her flight.
That conversation may have changed the course of his life.
Returning from her brother’s funeral days later, the resident learned that it was two young boys from the neighbourhood who had sliced the tires of many vehicles in the area. A social worker was brought in to attempt to resolve the issue among the people in the neighbourhood as an alternative to escalating the concern to the juvenile court.
The social worker asked if anyone would be willing to meet face-to-face with the boys, to share with them the impact of their actions on the lives of those whose cars they had damaged. Though part of her was hesitant, Fran agreed to meet with the youngest of the boys — an 11 year-old — and tell her story of that night.
That conversation may have changed the course of his life. Sometime later the resident was teaching a course at the same school the boy attended and she recalls that every time she arrived he was at the front door, waiting for her, asking to carry her books and spend some time with her.
While the Donegal St. housing complex seems to have a current story that is mostly one of peace, several residents who joined the gathering did express feeling more disconnected from one another than they would like. They at least wished there were more opportunities to socialize as a group, they said.
The gathering may have planted the seeds for some of that to happen as it began the conversation about what it can look like to be a connected community, how conflict is inevitable when people are in relationship and that this new resource, the community mediation program, is in the works.
The mediation program is a volunteer-based initiative to support neighbours in solving their conflicts together. It is described as an approach in which neutral mediators “listen, help people hear each other and turn conflict into connection.”
The gathering was co-hosted by Peter Pula of the Peterborough Dialogues and Marion Little, who is shaping the new-to-Peterborough community mediation program in partnership with the Peterborough Housing Corporation, Peterborough Police Service, and the John Howard Society. The community mediation project has been funded by a grant from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
A follow-up gathering at the Donegal St. housing complex is planned for early in the new year.